Mental health is a topic that has not been openly discussed both in our personal and work lives yet so many people are directly or indirectly affected by mental health struggles and/or disorders. To adequately address the importance of discussing mental health in your workplace, we must understand what it is. Mental health is defined as a state of well-being that gives an individual the capacity to cope with the pressures and stressors of everyday life. Great Mental Health enables a person to work productively, reach their full potential and become a ‘contributing’ member of society. Mental health, just like physical health and social well-being is an integral component of overall health that must be promoted and nurtured. October is depression and mental health awareness month and as it comes to an end we will discuss how employers can promote good mental health in the work place in this article.
LET’S TALK ABOUT IT
For the most part, mental health awareness is on the rise however we still live in a world where those who deal with mental health challenges still face discrimination and stigmatisation. This may in turn prevent them from speaking up and seeking the help the need due to shame and fear. In fact, shame and fear of discrimination are among the top reasons why people do not tell their employers and colleagues about their mental health state. It’s so important to encourage open conversations about mental health in the workplace and to foster a culture where people can be themselves. Understanding your employees – and their mental needs – enables your company to consistently adjust the road to achieving your set mission. So, make it easier for people to speak up about their own mental health concerns without fear of judgment and discrimination.
The importance and value of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) cannot be stressed enough – we will stress it again. EAP’S come in handy in providing employees with mental health hurdles , space to maintain a good standard of work with the right support from the company. Employers can also promote overall mental health in the workplace by actively engaging with employees outside of the traditional work space. Organise activities like team building, dinners to boost morale and give employees a break from the monotony of an office setting.
CREATE A POSITIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT
Unfortunately, in some cases the workplace can be toxic and the cause of mental health stressors for a lot of people. It’s important to create a workplace that is safe and positive and one that promotes the well-being of your employees. Happy employees have a positive attitude and are more optimistic about the company goals. Healthy employees are motivated and perform better at their jobs especially if they have a sense of fulfilment. No one wants to lose sleep on Sunday night dreading going to work on Monday morning. Create a company culture that values fun and group bonding by organising employee social gatherings which will promote friendship, collaboration and team spirit. A workplace where employees are at ease and have friendly interactions with each other are generally more conducive for mental health.
GO BEYOND YOUR LEGAL OBLIGATION
Every employer is bound by the obligations stated in the Employment Act 2012 which also states the rights of employees. These obligations include a duty to ensure that no employees are treated unfairly on the basis of race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth. Employers are also obligated to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace where an employee’s mental illness amounts to a disability and that there are adequate provisions for their welfare. Beyond this, employers can allow some flexibility in the work schedule to allow employees with existing mental illness adequate time to complete their work. Employers can also assess the risks that stress in the workplace can cause in regards to mental health and find solutions for these stressors.
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